Letter: Late Questions about Public Safety Building in East Lyme

in Public Safety

Thank you for your detailed reporting on the status of the East Lyme Public Safety Building. To build on this, I would like to offer my observations, experience and perspective on the process since the beginning of the year.

There were four key issues that I offered in early February on the Facebook East Lyme Community Forum.

It is self-evident that the Dominion building was not maintained and intentionally allowed to deteriorate until it became “deplorable” in what amounts to a manufactured crisis.

East Lyme did not get an independent appraisal by a certified commercial real estate appraiser to validate the price and make sure that we were not paying too much for a noncompliant building. The cost for this service would have been minimal.

Detailed documentation and due diligence on a whole host of issues with respect to the Honeywell building was not done and to this day still isn’t done.

This was noted as irresponsible by members of the Board of Finance at a special meeting in January. In my opinion, if you read the transcript carefully, you will see that Nickerson was evasive and stonewalled for 5 hours. A video of this meeting was not posted.

I raised the issue that we didn’t know the full costs of school renovations or whether there would be cuts to municipal state aid and what our operating budget would be. It turned out that as far as we know, renovations came in on budget and we did receive an increase of $331K in state aid.

In the rush to referendum, the process was flawed. We were not given the detailed information to make a sound decision –Flawed process. Flawed outcome. What now seems certain is the need for more funding. The lack of detail demonstrates disrespect for the Board of Selectmen, Board of Finance and the taxpayers of East Lyme.

What I offered was a clear road map for details and information to support the boards and citizens of East Lyme to make the right choice instead of a marketing pitch to close the sale that we were all given. A leader would have welcomed my comments recognizing what I offered.

A year ago before any public proposals, the East Lyme building inspector could have been tasked with documenting everything that would needed to be done to bring Honeywell into full compliance with all building codes for a public safety building.

The Director of Public Works could have been tasked with getting ballpark estimates for these code/compliance issues.

This information should have been included in OUR decision-making as the baseline, bare-minimum cost and also should have been included explicitly in the architect’s work and that we have $2.2M to work with.

Nickerson said, “We need a $2.2 million plan and then we need a plan to add the sally port and holdings cells and all the things that go with it structurally and for ADA and code compliance and all that. But we need a $2.2 million plan to get the police into this building.”

Why is Nickerson just asking for this now when he knew that $2.2M wasn’t going to be enough six months ago? Why are we going to allow a public building to be noncompliant with ADA and building codes? Perhaps it is because I recently raised the issues again in several comments on various public forums and the election is less than a month away.

We all should be asking these same questions along with the question that remains: How much more this “bargain” and “great deal” will cost us above and beyond the $5 million allocated or even the original $6 million we were told? My guess is that when all is said and done it will be closer to $8 – 9 million.

Lucira Jane Nebelung
Niantic, CT